According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2017 the cremation rate in the United States is projected to reach approximately 51.6 percent. By 2020, it is projected to reach approximately 56 percent. This means the preference for disposition of remains in the U.S. is now cremation rather than burial.
If you want to be cremated but have not discussed it with your spouse, partner, parents or children, it is very important you either talk with them about it now or put your last wishes regarding disposition of remains in writing. People tend to have strong emotional opinions and religious beliefs about cremation. The person who ultimately decides how your remains will be handled after your death may oppose cremation. If it is something that matters to you, take the time now to discuss it with those close to you and document your memorial preferences in a Last Wishes Planner or an estate planning form appointing an agent for the disposition of your remains.
For information on the costs of cremation, including different options such as direct cremation or cremation with a viewing and funeral service, see funeral and burial expenses.
While many people are now choosing cremation over traditional earth burials, cremation of human remains has a negative impact on the environment. To learn about environmentally friendly alternatives to cremation, such as green burial, see Burial Options.
Deciding Where to Scatter Ashes
If you want your cremated ashes scattered in a particular location, there are a variety of services available. For example, the International Scattering Society assists families with scattering the cremated remains of loved ones worldwide. They even offer clients the option of having cremated remains scattered at Mount Everest. Their services include providing your loved ones with photos of the scattering, a GPS location, and certificate. Prices for scattering services vary depending on your choice of location.
If you are interested in having your ashes scattered at a particular location by a scattering service, select your final arrangements in advance, include detailed instructions in your Last Wishes Planner, and appoint an agent to carry out the disposition of your remains by completing the estate planning forms required by the laws of your state.
Many people are uncomfortable with the thought of traditional cremation for obvious reasons. A new method of cremation is being promoted by some as an alternative to cremation by fire or flame. Alkaline Hydrolysis involves dissolving human remains in a hot water solution containing chemicals. During this liquid cremation process, the body is dissolved and the remains pass through a drain. Bones may be processed for return to surviving loved ones in a manner similar to traditional cremation.Individuals concerned about the environment may support the option of liquid cremation as having fewer negative consequences for the environment than traditional methods of cremation or burial. But this new type of cremation has opponents as well. Along with traditional cremation, liquid cremation may not be acceptable in some religions.Note: This method of cremation is not widely available in the U.S. at this time. If you are planning to include instructions regarding cremation by water or alkaline hydrolysis in your last wishes or memorial preferences planner, contact a funeral home or mortuary first to learn about options available for disposition of remains in your area. If you are leaving instructions for any type of final arrangements that are part of a new trend but have not become standard practice in the funeral industry, make sure your last wishes document clearly outlines another plan if your preferences cannot be honored.Updated July 28, 2017.